Rescue workers were stunned on Friday afternoon when a female garment worker was rescued alive from the rubble 17 days after the Rana Plaza building collapsed outside Dhaka.
Reshma Begum, who identified herself as a seamstress who worked on the third floor of Rana Plaza, had been breathing through a pipe from inside the wreckage, army soldiers conducting the rescue operation said.
Abdur Razzaq, an army sergeant who was involved in rescuing Reshma, said she had been hitting the concrete with the pipe and he had heard the sound after bulldozers had lifted loose rubble that had been covering the spot.
“I heard the sound and rushed towards the spot. I knelt down and heard a faint voice. Sir, please help me, she cried,” he said.
Reshma told rescuers she was unhurt and had survived by scavenging for biscuits in the rucksacks of dead colleagues.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Reshma at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in the Savar Cantonment at around 6pm after she left the capital in a chopper.
Army officers coordinating the rescue expressed astonishment at finding a survivor in the rubble at a time when the salvage operation was winding down.
“It is incredible that someone could have survived in the wreckage 408 hours after the building came down,” Army lieutenant Shah Jamal said. “Her will to live is amazing. We’ve given her oxygen and she has been rushed to hospital.”
Army officials said the death toll had reached 1050 on Friday afternoon.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has thanked rescue workers for pulling Reshma out unhurt from the debris 17 days after the deadly building collapse.
"It's a miraculous event," the PM said after hearing the news, Mahbubul Hoque Shakil, special assistant to the PM confirmed.
"Reshma is totally okay"
Reshma is out of danger and not suffering from any major physical complications, according to Maj Gen Chowdhury Hasan Sharif Suhrawardi, the general officer commanding of the ninth infantry division.
Briefing the reporters at the building collapse site, Maj Gen Suhrawardi said: “Reshma is totally okay and she made all possible efforts to keep herself alive.”
“She cut her hair with scissors she found under the rubble and ate whatever she found edible near her,” Suhrawardi added.
Suhrawardi said: “Reshma saw three other people around her, who died several days ago. Although rescuers had recovered those three dead bodies [earlier], they did not find Reshma then.”
Meanwhile, all sorts of heavy equipment was removed from the site when a sign of life was seen. The rescue workers have started to work manually again, entering the collapsed building with torchlights and other handy tools.